There is some sort of wonderful satisfaction in successfully manipulating metals – both in cold forging, and under heat, I find great pleasure and yes, JOY, in creating beautiful (or not?) works of wearable? art by bending, hammering, twisting, wrapping, and now fusing an otherwise seemingly rigid and inflexible material: metal. I started out, as most of you know, with copper. I think copper is probably the universal beginner’s metal – it is (or was) quite affordable, which lent comfort to the beginner in the case that a design was unsuccessful. Copper has, however, become quite popular in jewelry, even for advanced artisans. Our clientele seem to love copper jewelry, preferring the more affordable prices as well as the earthy and warm tones it’s natural and aged finishes give. I personally love copper jewelry, and wear my own designs almost exclusively!
Today, however, I’m not here to rave about copper…..I want to share with you my new found love and addiction to Argentium silver! My source for Argentium silver is riogrande.com – a fabulous supplier of high quality jewelry supplies, tools, metal, and wire. They state that their Argentium wire is: Made with a touch of germanium, Argentium® Silver presents a bright white color that is closer to fine silver than traditional sterling, yet is highly resistant to firescale and extremely slow to tarnish under most conditions. With 93.5% pure silver, Argentium meets the legal standard to be quality-marked as sterling silver. All Argentium is made from reclaimed silver and its sources are guaranteed by Argentium International Ltd. The unique properties of Argentium make this metal a dream to work with. It welds flawlessly and is ideal for fusing techniques. It offers excellent formability in its soft state and will work harden beautifully to create jewelry pieces that are stronger. It can also be age-hardened to make it more durable, able to take a brighter, more long lasting shine. Jewelry-makers and their customers appreciate the value and convenience of a brighter-white sterling silver that resists tarnish, everyday scratches and dents, and keeps on shining.
Once I was able to acquire a small butane torch (thank you hubby), I became completely enamored with Argentium. There are a couple of beginner mistakes I made: One, I tried fusing on a steel surface, instead of on a soldering or charcoal block….. I was curious to see what would happen – please, do yourself a favor, and get a charcoal block before attempting to fuse. You will save yourself a lot of heartache and frustration, because it simply won’t work on any other surface. Second: Argentium silver connections must be flush….if you are attempting to fuse, and the silver isn’t flowing, or the wire ends are pulling apart, turn off the torch, let the piece cool, then rework it so that the parts you wish to fuse are FLUSH! Then, retorch. The Argentium must be touching…it can not fuse to itself if it’s not flush. So use that file! You can also use steel wire to hold parts together while fusing. Learning how much heat it takes, and when to pull the torch off of a piece…that all takes practice. There are tutorials and additional information on Rio Grande’s website, which is a great place to start! I am still learning – I have melted much wire and many bezel cups beyond recognition in my efforts, but when a project does turn out successfully, it is extremely rewarding!!!!
I love being able to create my own balled end head pins, and bezel set gemstone cabochons, all without the additional paraphernalia needed to solder….now I’m not saying I won’t solder! That is most definitely the next thing on my list to learn – and if you have already gained skill in soldering, your interest in fusing may be nil. However, if you’re just picking up a torch and want to create some really cool stuff with silver, give Argentium silver a try!!! (Rio Grande offers to purchase your silver scraps, so don’t worry too much if you mess up a few times!!)
Here are a couple pieces I have made using the fusing technique: